Video Q & A:

Migraine 101


How are migraines diagnosed?

Expert:   Lawrence C. Newman, MD, Director, The Headache Institute, Roosevelt Hospital Center »

Your physician is trained to recognize certain symptoms that will differentiate migraines from other headaches. Be prepared for your doctor's appointment by finding out what they're likely to ask.

Transcript: Migraines are almost never caused by an underlying problem in your brain– so you can breathe easier there! But figuring out if that’s what what’s causing your head to hurt so much, does take a couple of steps. First, you should make an appointment with a headache specialist or neurologist. Arrive at your doctor’s appointment ready to answer questions about your symptoms, the frequency of the headache and your family’s history of migraine. Even though migraines are often mistakenly diagnosed as OTHER types of headaches, there are a few specific things a doctor will listen for when you describe your experience. Migraine headaches come with an intense, pulsing pain that may remain on only one side of your head. And they’re often disabling enough to weaken your ability to function normally. Symptoms unique to a migraine as compared to OTHER headaches include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and/or sound. If, prior to the onset of your headache, you experience symptoms such as bright lights or geometric lines and shapes in your vision, your physician will recognize it as a migraine aura, something which one fifth of those with migraine have right before their headache pain begins. Another HUGE indicator that you have migraine headaches is your family tree. Up to 90 percent of people with migraine have a family history of attacks, so if a parent or other family members have them, you might too. Finally, migraines are sometimes triggered by factors that don’t usually spark other types of headaches. They include the weather, stress, how much sleep you’ve gotten, and in women, the menstrual cycle. You should write down all your triggers prior to a doctor’s appointment. As long as your symptoms are typical of a migraine, you won’t have to undergo testing for a migraine diagnosis. If your headaches ARE deemed unusual, though, your doctor might order additional testing. More »

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